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Faculty Research: Analyzing flood risk in Jakarta


In an interdisciplinary effort, Gavin Shatkin has partnered with faculty in Northeastern’s School of Architecture and the departments of Art and Design and Anthropology to examine projections of flood risk in rapidly growing coastal megacities.

Shatkin, associate professor of public policy and architecture, received a Provost’s Tier 1 Interdisciplinary Seed Grant, a $50,000 internal grant designed to stimulate and support interdisciplinary research at Northeastern and to increase the competitiveness of external proposals. This year’s winners also include Thomas Vicino and Dietmar Offenhuber who are both faculty in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs.

Shatkin became interested in flooding issues in Asian cities after visiting Banaba a couple of years ago, a community of low-income households in Metro Manila that had been wiped out by a major flood in 2009. As people struggled to rebuild their homes with very little help from the government, they decided to form Buklod Tao, an organization that began to research and map community vulnerabilities to improve housing and infrastructure and develop disaster response systems in the area.

“My interaction with Buklod Tao left me with a range of questions about why the threats faced by communities like Banaba so often remained unaddressed by government and other external actors, and about the ways that community-based and non-governmental organizations can contribute to understanding community vulnerability and building resilience.”

—Gavin Shatkin, director of the Asian Studies Program and the Master’s in Urban and Regional Policy.

Using Jakarta, Indonesia, as a case study, Shatkin and his team will attempt to answer those questions by conducting a pilot research project and convening a research exchange and planning workshop with local stakeholders in Jakarta.

The project, he said, will focus on understanding the current context of the interaction between flood modeling and political contestations around resilience-building, infrastructure, and rights to land and shelter.

The first phase of the project, which will be conducted in August and September, will determine how forecasts of future flood risks are interpreted and deployed by policymakers, civil society organizations, and citizens to make claims to space, infrastructure and other resources.

“We’ll start with an exploratory phase, conducting initial research investigations to understand existing efforts to map and model flood risk in Jakarta,” Shatkin said. “This initial phase will culminate in a workshop to be held in Jakarta that will bring together faculty from Northeastern University and Indonesian experts to present our research findings, and to brainstorm new research agendas.”

“We hope that this workshop will result in new interdisciplinary and cross-national research collaborations that will focus on fruitful new areas of investigation. The intention ultimately is to develop a more grounded and accurate understanding of vulnerability that will lead to improved efforts to build the resilience of communities like Banaba.”

Through interviews and participant observation, researchers will then determine how community-based and non-governmental organizations representing community interests are attempting to gain leverage in knowledge creation around flood risk as means to advocate for development alternatives.

The pilot study will serve as the basis to develop a larger Practice-Action-Research project about land development and infrastructure failure.

Visit the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs website for more information on the School’s innovative research portfolio.


Published On: May 17, 2016 |
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